Conan O’Brien is finally talking to the press about the late-night battle with NBC that left him temporarily unemployed. In a 60 Minutes interview yet to be aired, Conan is careful with his words, but he makes one thing clear: if the situation with NBC and Jay Leno had been reversed, he would not have taken over the show again the way Leno did.
In his first televised interview since his late night dethroning, Conan O’Brien says he never would have acted like Jay Leno if their “Tonight Show” roles had been reversed.
“He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know – I know me, I wouldn’t have done that,” O’Brien, says in the interview scheduled to air on ’60 Minutes’ on Sunday.
“If I had surrendered ‘The Tonight Show’ and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well — and then … six months later,” he added. “But that’s me, you know. Everyone’s got their own, you know, way of doing things.”
Asked by correspondent Steve Kroft what he would have done, O’Brien says, “Done something else, go someplace else. I mean, that’s just me.”
O’Brien eventually left NBC thinking “this relationship is going be toxic and maybe we just need to go our separate ways.” He is set to host a talk show on TBS following his comedy tour.
According to the New York Times, O’Brien held back on criticizing NBC too much because of his buyout and agreement to not disparage Leno or executives. He refuses to bite when Kroft suggests he “got screwed.” O’Brien responds, “No, I didn’t. I’m fine.”
When he’s asked if Leno lobbied to regain the show, O’Brien says simply, “I don’t know.”
When asked if Leno acted less than honorably, O’Brien hesitated and then said, “I can’t answer that.”
I’d just like to clarify that Leno didn’t technically “surrender” the Tonight Show: NBC, for whatever reason, let him go. While Leno’s conduct hasn’t been the greatest in this whole mess, most of the blame should be laid at the feet of NBC for cooking up this scheme in the first place. They were the ones who pushed Leno out, gave Conan the spot, and then decided to put Leno on at 10 p.m., which caused a ratings catastrophe for Conan’s show. Let’s be real: trained monkeys probably could have done a better job programming the NBC lineup. But it’s all good now, because Conan will have his own show at 11 pm on TNT,and his current tour featuring Triumph the insult comic dog, Andy Richter and an unpredictable set of famous guest stars, including Jim Carrey, is keeping Conan busier than ever. Yeah, I’d say he’s over it.